This morning, I asked my husband to move the bed so I could make sure my engagement ring wasn’t beneath. It’s been missing for over a week. I tend to misplace things all the time (even sentimental, valuable things), and my sister-in-law pointed out that it’s a miracle I haven’t lost my rings before now, since I always take them off to wash dishes, put on lotion, give my children baths.
But this time feels different.
It’s strange because I never knew how much that ring meant to me. When we were living in Wisconsin, I became inspired by the hippies who eschewed jewelry not made from leather, bead, or bone and considered selling my engagement ring and giving the money to charity.
I wasn’t sure those diamonds were me anymore. But then I lost the ring, and like many things whose value we aren’t aware of until they’re gone, I could see the sentimental value of that ring far eclipsed its worth.
I sprawled across the bed this morning, after having once again looked in the closet, under the dresser, bed, and nightstand. My two-year-old walked over and asked, “Why you sad, Mommy?”
I held up my hand and twirled my wedding band. “I can’t find my other ring.”
She tilted her blond head and pooched out her lips in a toddler caricature of concern. Then her eyes suddenly widened, and she gasped. “I know where it is!” She took off, her little diapered bottom making swishing sounds as she ran.
I sat up, daring not to hope, but my heart beat a little faster anyway. I heard drawers opening and closing. I walked through the living room over to the nursery. I could tell my daughter was excited. Finally, she looked up and pointed. “There it is!”
I smiled as I looked on top of the dresser and saw the conch shell ring my mother had purchased for me as a Gulf Shores souvenir. My young daughters absolutely love going through my jewelry, and occasionally, I will give them a small piece to put in their jewelry boxes. I gave my four-year-old an abalone pendant; I gave my two-year-old that ring.
But my two-year-old misunderstood “jewelry box” and thought I meant dresser. A few days ago, when I was putting away her clothes, I found that ring, nestled on top of a tiny pair of jeans, and now my daughter thought that this was the ring I sought.
“Oh, thank you!” I exclaimed and examined it from all sides.
She nodded, delighted that she’d helped me. Later, I set that ring on top of my own dresser and looked at it. My husband playfully told me, while I was searching, that this is how it happens: one day, this beautiful home will fall down and someone will explore the rubble with a flashlight or a metal detector and will find my engagement ring.
They won’t know the story of how my husband proposed on the shore of Dale Hollow Lake while we ate hobo packs, the lights from his Will U Marry Me? exhibition coming on at exactly 7 o’clock and shimmering through the trees; they won’t know about the beautiful September day we wed on a horse ranch in Tennessee, and how he slipped another ring in front of my engagement one, and how my voice cracked with tears as I said my vows. They won’t know about how I lost that engagement ring, or how my toddler daughter was thrilled to help me find a $2 conch shell ring to replace it.
And that’s when I understood that there is a distinct difference between value and worth: value is what our memories give to an item; worth is the value the economy gives. Therefore, that conch shell ring is now as valuable as the diamonds my husband slipped onto my ring finger nine years ago.
Maybe even more so, because now, each time I look at that conch shell ring, I will think of all the memories that led up to that point.
What “worthless” items do you deem valuable?